SINGAPORE — The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) reported that 2018’s suicide rate went up by 10 percent since 2017. While all age groups save the over-60’s showed an increase in suicide numbers, suicides for boys between 10 and 19 were the highest they have ever been.
On Monday, July 29, the SOS statistics on 2018’s suicide numbers revealed disturbing news. Last year, 397 people sadly took their own lives, 36 more than the 361 in 2017. This took Singapore’s suicide rate up from 7.74 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2017 to 8.36 in 2018. Those numbers only reflect suicides that were reported.
According to the SOS, suicide rates went up among all age groups, with the exception of elderly Singaporeans aged 60 and above.
While the mental health of all Singaporean citizens is of utmost concern, the statistics from the SOS reveal the demographic that is battling with suicide the most — men, specifically young men.
For every 10 deaths by suicide reported in 2018, at least seven were by men.
Out of the 397 people who took their own lives in 2018, 94 were were aged between 10 and 29.
For boys between the ages of 10 and 19 years old, there were 19 reported suicides. This is almost triple the number it was in 2017 and the highest ever recorded number since 1991, when records began.
Suicide mortality among youths and males is a “significant societal concern”, said the SOS.
Singapore’s young people need mental and emotional support more than ever, and they are also willing to ask for help. SOS said that more than 78 percent who reached out to the organisation in 2018 were between 10 and 29 years old, 56 percent more than in its last fiscal year.
“It is disconcerting to know that many of our young feel unsupported through their darkest periods and see suicide as the only choice to end their pain and struggles,” said SOS senior assistant director Wong Lai Chun.
“Youths today seem to have greater awareness of the moments when they feel alone and helpless. They are more willing to reach out and explore available support avenues like our support services, social media and their peers.”
Wong spoke of the pressures and the stereotypes that pervade our society, and how judging others or oneself based on societal tropes can negatively effect people’s mental health.
“Men are stereotypically expected to be tough, stoic, and financially stable. The slightest hint of vulnerability can be seen as an imperfection.
“We live in a society that stresses the importance of masculine qualities as a measure of success. As a result, we grow impatient toward behaviours that seem to depict weakness,” Wong remarked.
“This has to change,” said Wong, saying that people need to know that being flawed and imperfect is alright.
She cited the great need for proper education on how to deal with mental health issues. Education will lead to support between families and friends, in schools and businesses, which is imperative for creating a supportive and encouraging environment rather than a harsh, judgmental one.
CNA spoke with MP Rahayu Mahzam, who sits on the government parliamentary committee for social and family development. He said that the figures from SOS are “worrying” and that mental health is one topic that Singapore youths discuss.
“They are keenly aware of the importance of mental health and there is a sense that we should have more conversations on this issue and provide for more sources of support,” said Rahayu.
Rahayu said that the National Service (NS) could provide the emotional strength and support young men need, suggesting that officers should be properly trained to spot and help with mental and emotional issues.
“A culture of self-care” is what the NS could nurture, Rahayu said.
MP Seah Kian Peng, who also sits on the government parliamentary committee for social and family development, said that mental health is “something all of us should be concerned about”.
“Any suicide is one too many. Mental wellness is something important and serious,” said Seah, noting that timely help and intervention is a priority.
“It can be treated and there are places to go. It can happen to anyone and you’re not alone.”
Seah said that we can develop a culture of help, a healthy cycle that will break down social barriers and encourage openness in conversation and support.
“The more open we are to seeking help, the more we recognise that this issue affects all of us, the less social stigma there will be against reaching out for help,” he said.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicide, don’t be afraid to reach out to Samaritans of Singapore (SOS):
24-HOUR SOS HOTLINE: 1800 221 4444
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 24-hour emergency medical services at 995 or approach your nearest A&E.